Over the past decade or so, a lot of research and case law has been built around the syndrome of parental alienation. While attachment-based parental alienation is undoubtedly harmful, it can also qualify as illegal child abuse in extreme cases. Essentially, parental alienation refers to a harmful parental dynamic in which one parent uses their parental position to manipulate the child into rejecting or having negative emotions toward the other parent. Parental alienation occurs in various forms.
Self-esteem and identity destruction
One version of parental alienation occurs when the parent actively tries to destroy the child’s self-esteem and their sense of self. Children in this state are extremely susceptible to bullying and taking on the emotions of the alienating parent. These feelings are, in turn, used to coerce the child into having negative feelings for the other parent, including the want or need to avoid interactions with that parent.
Dysfunction to harmony seeking
Another way that one parent can alienate the other parent is through conflict that wears the other person down. The worn-down parent gives up some of their rights or allows the other parent to exert more control to accommodate and preserve harmony. This, in turn, creates family tension and can allow for a physical and prolonged separation between the non-alienating parent and child.
It is a real issue
While our Riverside, California, readers may think this list is exhaustive. Unfortunately, it is not. Parental alienation takes many additional forms, but the key is for parents to pay attention to how their child interacts with them to look for signs that they are disassociating from them. It is, normally, a good idea to have your child in counseling or therapy to help identify when parental alienation is occurring. Attorneys with experience in child custody and parental alienation can help parents learn about their legal options.